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The special handling units are seen by the penitentiary authorities as a successful response to the problem of the dangerous prisoner, so much so that recent announcements by the solicitor-general point to more such units being established. In light of my description of the regimes of the SHUs, it will come as no surprise to discover that, in my judgment, an extension of those regimes will further compound the illegitimacy of Canada's ultimate carceral power. I have described how the physical space and program requirements set out in the Vantour-McReynolds Report, which is the theoretical model for the SHUs, have simply not been met. Consequently, the whole idea of the phased return to the general population, while described by the Penitentiary Service as the chief difference between these units and regular segregation, is a correctional fiction.

It would be a significant step forward if all segregation units in maximum-security institutions were made to conform to the requirements of the Vantour-McReynolds Report in their physical and program resources. However, the behaviour-modification assumptions concerning the way SHUs or any other segregation unit should be operated must be abandoned.

It is ironic that at the very time the SHUs were established (on an overtly behaviouralistic model), the federal government's Task Force on the Creation of an Integrated Canadian Corrections Service recommended that 'rehabilitation ...must cease to be a purpose of the prison sentence reasoning behind this was stated as follows:

Since the early 1960s, one of the most widely held beliefs in corrections management has been, and still is to a great extent, that the best way to protect society is to 'rehabilitate' the offender ...It makes the assumption that correctional practitioners are able to change or modify the personality which further assumes that criminal behaviour is somehow an expression of some underlying personality disturbance which requires extensive therapy and treatment before the criminal behaviour ceases. As a correctional goal, these claims have been challenged as being unrealistic, unsubstantiated and unattainable. The concept of rehabilitation has raised unrealistic expectations of altering criminal behaviour ...The approach gives correctional practitioners a strong inducement to employ coercion in the guise of humane treatment, and to enforce participation in treatment programs as a requisite to release ...Resulting distrust among offenders of the institutional treatment program further undermines the possibility of effecting fundamental behavioural change.57

The assumption that as a result of such subtle manipulations of the correctional environment as the provision or withholding of a television set, or permitting association every night in a small common room as opposed to every other night, the most dangerous prisoners will become non-dangerous, is as 'unrealistic, unsubstantiated and unattainable' as any that have been made about the rehabilitative ideal.

Nor is the behaviouralist underpinning of the SHU any more attainable when conceived not in terms of rehabilitation but rather in terms 6f inducing a conditioned response of submission to and compliance with authority. Few prisoners who find themselves in segregation (and particularly not men like Jack McCann, Andy Bruce, and Edgar Roussel) will, without resistance, abandon the struggle for individuality, for the assertion of their distinctive personalities, and concede that they are merely puppets in the latest act in the repertoire of the 'grand theatre' of carceral authority.

It is important to understand the implications of my position that the behavioural-modification basis for segregation units must be abandoned as illegitimate. As I have made clear, this position does not in any way entail the rejection of the various programs which the Vantour-McReynolds Report recommended as part of the segregation regime. It does, however, entail rejection of the Vantour-McReynolds rationale for making these programs available. As I have pointed out, that rationale was to provide opportunities for the prisoners to demonstrate 'meaningful behavioural change' and for authorities to assess the behavioural interaction of prisoners in order to determine the rate of their progression through the phases and their ultimate release. In my view, the principal justification for permitting segregated prisoners the rights and privileges of normal visitation, correspondence, library, work, and educational programs is that they are essential components of a prison regime which, consistent with carrying out the sentence of the court, should reduce the inherently debilitating effects of imprisonment by adopting the least restrictive means of confinement. The segregation regime is not 'beyond the ken' of this correctional mandate. I hope I have demonstrated that present carceral practices relating to segregation are not the least restrictive means we have available to us and that these practices, far from reducing, intensify the most debilitating features of imprisonment.

I have already described how the implementation of the special handling unit concept in 1977 was, together with the introduction of life sentences for murder with minimum terms of up to twenty-five years, part of the political trade-off for the abolition of the death penalty. The federal government has not pursued its original intention of using the units for the incarceration of all these sentenced to twenty-five years for first-degree murder; instead attention has been focused on the dangerous prisoner who poses a serious threat of violence within prison walls. There remains, however, a close relationship between the SHUs and the draconian sentences with which they were linked politically. Professor Normandeau of the School of Criminology at the University of Montreal commented in 1976 that the legislation introducing the mandatory twenty-five year sentences 'is tantamount ...to inventing a new death penalty in disguise which, this time, would threaten the penitentiary personnel as much as the murderers ...Thus we shall probably see a series of blackmailings, riots, hunger strikes, sabotages, hostage-takings, grievous assaults, murders and escapes.'58

Professor Normandeau's prediction is already coming to pass. The day before my first visit to the CDC in May 1980 an escape attempt and a hostage-taking occurred in Laval Institution. One prisoner was shot. Eight of the nine prisoners involved were serving twenty-five-year minimum sentences. It should not be surprising that prisoners who are subjected to these sentences are figuring disproportionately in acts of institutional violence. The penitentiary was never conceived as a place for imprisonment for twenty-five years. Prior to 1850, sentences in excess of five years were rare. Lord John Russell expressed the view in 1837 that ten years in prison would be a 'punishment worse than death.'59 How do Canadian prisoners in 1983 view twenty-five years in prison? Edgar Roussel, who is serving such a sentence, told the solicitor-general in an open letter written from the CDC, 'they have tried to hide the smell of death, though unsuccessfully, by imposing mandatory sentences instead of capital punishment. The rope is longer and the feeling of suffocation isn't quite as apparent, but the results are the same, death!60

Another prisoner I interviewed in the SHU at Millhaven described how he saw his life in the face of a twenty-five year sentence in these chilling terms: 'It is really quite simple. I will escape or I will die trying.' For men whose experience has been characterized by violence to come to see life as time without hope save that of escape is fraught with the prospect of further violence. Under the present policies the institutional response to such violence will be a two-year stint in SHU. But this prospect must fail as a deterrent in the face of a twenty-five year sentence. The prison authorities will then be pressured to escalate the length and rigours of the regime. This will inexorably push the SHU regime backward to (and perhaps beyond) the regime condemned in McCann, to the point highlighted by Dr Korn where the effects of the repressive measures taken against the prisoners are such that they can never be let out of their cages.61 Unless the most serious reconsideration is given to the legitimacy of the two political pillars of abolition, the SHU and the twenty-five-year minimum sentences, I fear the Canadian pententiary system is indeed heading backward toward Jack McCann's 'gates of hell.' The doubling of the length of a prisoner's stay in SHU, introduced in 1980 as part of the 'dangerous inmate policy,' is an ominous road sign in this regression. Others have urged the abandonment of the twenty-five-year minimum sentences;62 I urge the closing of the SHUs.

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